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Hamilton High School holds early graduation for girl whose mother is in hospice care

Posted at 4:05 PM, Feb 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-22 19:01:25-05

HAMILTON, Ohio — High school graduations typically don't happen for another few months, but a special early graduation ceremony at Hamilton High School meant the world to one family.

Verena Shiflett is living in hospice and hadn't been sure she'd be able to make it to May to see her daughter, Rhonda, graduate.

Shiflett said she was nervous but "really proud" of her daughter.

"Ecstatically proud," she said. "She's come a long way."

Back in 2003, Shiflett was diagnosed with COPD and emphysema. In the past five years, her condition has gotten bad. Now she is living at home in hospice.

Michael Mills is Rhonda's dad and Verena's fiancé.

"I love her and I want to keep her around forever," he said. "But, I mean, it's come down to this point and you just feel defeated."

But Shiflett has kept going, saying she's "a fighter."

"I've been fighting it and I'm going to fight it until the end," she said.

Rhonda is a fighter, too. The 18-year-old is developmentally delayed and lives with cerebral palsy and epilepsy. But Friday, she graduated from Hamilton High School with her mother watching proudly from the crowd, alongside many of Rhonda's classmates and teachers.

Hospice of Southwest Ohio and the school district worked to together to make the event possible.

"It meant the world to me," Shiflett sait. "I've waited so long for her to get [a diploma]. It was amazing. It really was."